Early Sugar Industry of Bihar

Sugar-Cane being transported to Choutarwa Sugar Mill of then Champaran, a photo of 1905

In every part of ancient Bihar, several of the confectioners prepare the kind of coarse sugar called Shukkur, which in fact was entirely similar to the Muscavado sugar of Jamaica, and was prepared by putting some of the thin extract of sugar-cane into coarse sackcloth bags, and by putting a weight on these to squeeze out the molasses.
In Bihar there were 15 houses of the Mahuri tribe, where refined sugar was made by placing 25 sers of the Shukkur in a basket, and on the surface was laid some of the aquatic plants usually employed to refine sugar

Origin of Sugar Industry in Bihar

In the year 1792, sugar rose by degrees to an enormous price in Great Britain.In consequence, the East India Company were called upon to lend their assistance to lowering of the price of sugar. On the 15th of March 1792, his Majesty's Ministers to the British Parliament,presented a report related to production of sugar in British India. Lieutenant J. Paterson, of then Bengal establishment, reported that sugar could be cultivated in Bihar with many superior advantages, and at less expense than in the West Indies.As a result, a no. of sugar factories were established in Bihar. Some of these are illustrated here.

Promotion of Indian Sugar

In 1828 AD,the Peckham Ladies African and Anti Slavery Associations encouraged their readers to boycott West Indian sugar since it had been produced by slave labour. This is the cover-page of the text of an article entitled 'Reasons for using East India Sugar' published in 1828 AD by the Peckham Ladies African and Anti Slavery Association.
BARRAH ESTATES, LTD. AND CHAMPARAN SUGAR COMPANY, LTD                                  

This factory was built by a Mr. Stewart about the year 1820, The managers in the earliest days of the concern included M/S Stewart, Moran Henry Hill, Captain Hickey, Henry and Joseph Hill and H. L. Hollway.
Manufacture was done by carbonation process. Limestone was placed in a kiln with coke, in the proportion of ten to one, and then burned, the carbonic gas being forced direct from the kiln through the tanks, this being the latest method of manufacture. The mill was able to deal daily for 100 days in the year with 300 tons of cane with an average return of 8 per cent, of sugar to cane. There was a great demand for the sugar made . Nearly the whole of the output was disposed off locally and to the State of Punjab.

Evaporative plant of Champaran Sugar Company at Bara-Chakiya



The land had been thoroughly well ploughed with steam tackle, and enriched by being manured with a crop of green flax turned .The sugar cane was sent in carts to the cane carrier and conveyed to the splitting, crushing, and roller-mills, the refuse being elevated to boilers and subsequently used as fuel for raising steam.

Permission was given by the East  India Company for the erection of an indigo factory at Bihkhanpur, in the then district of Tirhut, in the year 1819.The  letter addressed by the Commissioners of the Company to a Mr. Cahill authorized him " to hold 50 bighas of land " required by him for that purpose. The property afterward  comprised 5,000 acres, the productive portion consisting of 2,000 acres of sugar-cane, 1,500 acres of indigo, and 1,500 acres of wheat, barley, oats, mustard, and other crops. 

The sugar factory and an excellent  sugar store (which cover eight acres of  land, and were erected on the banks of a beautiful lake, from which a good supply of water for all purposes could be obtained) were commodious buildings, constructed of brick, and equipped with excellent machinery, which was able to crush about  three hundred tons of cane in a day of twenty-four hours.
A considerable quantity of the output was  sold locally, but the greater portion was consigned to the Punjab and the North western Districts. The season for crushing cane extends from December to April, and the average yield of sugar was 1 ton to 14 or 15 tons of cane. 


   The juice was pumped through boxes of sulfur fumes prior to being heated, and it was subsequently passed on to the deification plant, from which the clarified juice was transferred to 

eliminators for the removal of more impurities, the latter under pressure being passed through press filters. Following upon these measures the product was pumped into settling tanks, from which the juice was filtered through Taylor's filters and then through Harvey's " Triple " evaporator, leaving those as a clarified syrup, which was boiled in the vacuum pans and converted into sugar.

The syrup leave the pans as a mixture of sugar and molasses, going into a receiver with agitators which kept it in motion, and from there it was charged into the centrifugal machines, when the molasses was separated from the sugar. The latter was then conveyed by the use of elevators to the sugar floor, and after passing through a drier it was either crushed or kept as grained sugar, according to the demand, it was then packed in double gunny bags containing 200 lbs.


Indigo was somewhat extensively grown in former years at Ryam, in the district of Darbhanga. which was within the dehat of 180 square miles under the control of Mr. C. R. Clayton-Daubeny, but since the cultivation of that plant was discontinued the whole of the estate has been dealt with on the Zemindary system, a portion of the and being devoted to the production of sugar-cane, rice, wheat, barley,  and other crops. The registered office of the company was at 1 23/1 Halsey Road, Cawnpore, the capital and debentures are Rs. 4,00,000 and Rs. 3,00,000 respectively, and the managing agents in India were Messrs. Begg, Sutherland & Co., of Cawnpore.The total area under sugar-cane of the Bhuri variety was about 5,000 acres(including 400 acres belonging to Mr. Clayton-Daubeny personally), and a fair  average yield was about 10 tons to the acre.  

The company had erected a very substantial 400-ton mill, and it was fitted with a most up-to-date plant (by Messrs. Mirrilees, Watson & Co., of Glasgow),

capable of turning out 25 tons of sugar daily during the season, from the 1st of December to the 31st of March.

Limestone, required for the carbonating process of manufacture, was obtained from Chunar, and was burned in the company's own kiln of modern construction, which was fitted with patent lifts not only for feeding the kiln with stone but also transferring the crushed produce into the liming tanks. A special feature of the  mill was that it was so designed that an individual may take up a certain position from which he could see the whole process of manufacture — that was, from the delivery of the cane and limestone into separate parts of the machinery until the moment when, all the various processes having been passed through, the sugar was cast out into the prescribed receptacles. The  produce was thereafter put into a grinding machine, which reduced it to a pure white powder as fine as salt, and it was subsequently used in the making of sweets in the Native States and the Punjab.

The whole of the manufacturing was done on the Swadeshi system,, under which a guarantee was given by the Government that no bones or other substances  antagonistic to caste principles were used.


    BEHAR AND ORISSA (1917)-
    Their History, People, Commerce, and Industrial Resource 
    Compiled by SOMERSET PLAYNE,The Foreign and Colonial Compiling and Publishing Co.27 pilgrim street, LONDON, E.G.
  • An account of the districts of Bihar and Patna in1811-1812: Volume 2  (1936)     Francis Hamilton, Bihar Research Society,Patna